In New Book, Romney Unloads on Fellow Republicans


Even before Senator Mitt Romney of Utah announced he would not seek re-election next year, he made no secret of his disapproval of the direction of the Republican Party and former President Donald J. Trump’s grip on it.

But in a new, deeply reported biography, “Romney: A Reckoning,” set to be released next week, Mr. Romney goes beyond his broad disdain for the party and gives his unvarnished opinion of some of his fellow Republicans.

In interviews with the book’s author, McKay Coppins, Mr. Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, offers frank appraisals that are rare in Washington.

Such tell-all, insider books often foster a practice known as the “Washington read,” in which boldfaced names immediately flip through the index to find out what damaging assessments may come to haunt them.

Here is a selection of what Mr. Romney’s peers and colleagues, past and present, might find.

Mr. Romney’s advisers in 2012 suggested that he consider Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, as a running mate, according to the book.

But Mr. Romney had reservations about Mr. Christie’s “prima donna tendencies,” and worried that the governor was not “up to the physical demands” of being on the ticket and was plagued by “barely buried” scandals, Mr. Coppin writes.

The two also came into conflict in 2016 after Mr. Christie became one of the first establishment Republicans to back Mr. Trump.

“I believe your endorsement of him severely diminishes you morally,” Mr. Romney wrote in an email. He added: “You must withdraw that support to preserve your integrity and character.”

Evaluating Mr. Christie’s 2024 campaign, Mr. Romney labels him “another bridge-and-tunnel loudmouth” like Mr. Trump, saying it would be “a hoot” to watch the two of them spar on the debate stage.

Mr. Romney called Senator Ted Cruz of Texas “scary” and “a demagogue” in his journal, and in an email assessing political candidates in 2016, he said Mr. Cruz was “frightening.”

He was also bluntly critical of Mr. Cruz’s role in Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, including his perpetuating Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.

Mr. Romney said that he believed Mr. Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, another objector, were too smart to believe what they were saying.

“They were making a calculation that put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution,” Mr. Romney said.

Of all of the would-be challengers to Mr. Trump, Mr. Romney seemed to have the most to say about Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who was viewed early on as having the best shot at challenging Mr. Trump for the nomination.

Mr. Romney’s views on the governor were decidedly mixed, according to the book.

“Mr. Romney wanted to like the governor,” Mr. Coppins writes. The senator said that it was a “no-brainer” to support Mr. DeSantis if it meant keeping Mr. Trump out of the White House.

Yet Mr. Romney appeared to have reservations. He worried that Mr. DeSantis shared “odious qualities” with Mr. Trump, pointing to his penchant for stoking the culture wars and his fight with the Walt Disney Company.

And Mr. Romney appeared to have objections to the Florida governor on a more personal level.

“There’s just no warmth at all,” Mr. Romney said. He added that when Mr. DeSantis posed for photos with Iowa voters, “he looks like he’s got a toothache.”

Even his appraisal of Mr. DeSantis’s positive qualities came with a backhanded sting.

“He’s much smarter than Trump,” Mr. Romney said. But, he added, “there’s a peril to having someone who’s smart and pulling in a direction that’s dangerous.”

While Mr. Romney was running unsuccessfully for Senate in Massachusetts in 1994, Mr. Gingrich, a hard-line conservative who would become House speaker, was rising to prominence.

Mr. Romney recalls thinking, according to the book, that Mr. Gingrich “came across as a smug know-it-all; smarmy and too pleased with himself and not a great face for our party.”

Two decades later, when the two were competing against each other in the Republican presidential primary, Mr. Romney was no more impressed.

Mr. Coppins writes that Mr. Romney saw Mr. Gingrich as “a ridiculous blowhard who babbled about America building colonies on the moon.” He also had moral objections to Mr. Gingrich’s admitted adultery.

In his journal, Mr. Romney wrote that his wife, Ann, thought that Mr. Gingrich was “a megalomaniac, seriously needing psychiatric attention.”

As he does with many other Republicans in the book, Mr. Romney hammers Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, over what he sees as a gap between his public and private statements relating to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Coppins writes that Mr. Romney questioned “which version of McConnell was more authentic: the one who did Trump’s bidding in public, or the one who excoriated him in their private conversations.”

Still, Mr. Romney seems to have respect for Mr. McConnell. In January 2021, he said, he believed Mr. McConnell had been “indulgent of Trump’s deranged behavior over the last four years, but he’s not crazy.”

Mr. Romney makes his disdain for the former vice president abundantly clear, calling him “a lap dog to Trump for four years.”

He seems particularly appalled by what he viewed as Mr. Pence’s willingness to compromise his own moral views, or contort them, to be a loyal foot soldier to Mr. Trump.

“No one had been more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God’s will to things that were ungodly, than Mike Pence,” Mr. Romney told Mr. Coppins.

Mr. Romney described Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor who was a rival for the 2012 Republican nomination, as a “dimwit,” Mr. Coppins writes.

In his journal, Mr. Romney wrote of Mr. Perry that “Republicans must realize that we must have someone who can complete a sentence.”

In 2016, when Mr. Perry ran a short-lived campaign for president, Mr. Romney said that the Texan’s “prima donna, low-IQ personality” was a non-starter.

The former senator from Pennsylvania, who also ran against Mr. Romney in 2012, was “sanctimonious, severe and strange,” in Mr. Romney’s assessment.

At one point during the 2012 campaign, Mr. Romney finds himself irked by his rival’s “apparently bottomless self-interest,” Mr. Coppin writes.

In his journal, Mr. Romney said Mr. Santorum was “driven by ego, not principle.”

Perhaps the freshest revelation in Mr. Romney’s book is his acknowledgment that many of his colleagues in the Senate, including Mr. McConnell, privately shared his poor view of Mr. Trump.

But that harsh assessment — which would set up Mr. Romney’s conflict with Mr. Trump throughout his presidency — was made most clear in the email Mr. Romney sent to Mr. Christie in 2016.

“He is unquestionably mentally unstable, and he is racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, vulgar and prone to violence,” Mr. Romney wrote. “There is simply no rational argument that could lead me to vote for someone with those characteristics.”


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